‘Taliban Stronger than Ever’ after Massacre
Spiegel— It was supposed to be a routine morale-boosting visit to German soldiers in Afghanistan. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s surprise arrival in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday was overshadowed by the killing of 16 civilians, including women and children, allegedly by a US soldier at the weekend.
During her visit to Mazar-e-Sharif, Merkel condemned the attack, calling it a “dreadful deed.”
The suspected shooter, a US Army staff sergeant, is in custody at a NATO base in Afghanistan. He is thought to have acted alone.
The Taliban has sworn to take revenge for the shooting spree, and the retribution appears to have already started. On Tuesday, militants attacked a government delegation that included two of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brothers, who were visiting the village in Panjwai district in Kandahar province where the massacre happened. One Afghan soldier and three militants were killed in the attack.
The massacre comes at a time when anti-American sentiment is already high in Afghanistan. In February, US soldiers inadvertently burned copies of the Koran at a NATO base in the capital Kabul, an incident that triggered riots across the country. The previous month, a video was made public that showed US marines urinating on dead Afghans.
‘The Will Is There’
Speaking in Mazar-e-Sharif, Merkel also appeared to call the timetable for the NATO pullout into question, suggesting that the 2014 withdrawal date might be overly optimistic. “I cannot yet say if we will manage it by 2013 or 2014,” she said, adding that there had been some progress in Afghan reconciliation efforts but not to the extent that Germany was able to commit to leaving. “The will is there, we want to succeed,” she said.
One of the biggest contributors to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force after the US and Britain, Germany has around 4,800 troops in Afghanistan, mainly in the north of the country, out of a total of approximately 130,000 ISAF troops. The German contingent is due to be withdrawn by the end of 2014, along with the rest of the ISAF forces.
NATO insists that the massacre will not affect plans to turn over security to local forces. A spokeswoman for the alliance told the Associated Press that it was an “isolated incident” which “doesn’t change our commitment to the mission and to the timetable.”